‘Housing crisis?’ Israel will build 930 more units in occupied East Jerusalem

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Well, that’s one way to address the housing crisis in Israel today: build 930 new houses . . . in East Jerusalem!

I can just see PM Netanyahu saying to a Cabinet minister: “Housing crisis? I have just the thing!”

Absolutely brilliant (no, really, it is – well, kind of, at least in that ultimately self-defeating way we’ve come to know and love from Netanyahu and friends).

The sooner you get the settler protesters out of their tents ( the cry of “To your tents, O Israel!” has never boded well for Jewish rulers) and back to the Occupied Territories, the less chance there is that they might turn on you in elections and – Herzl forbid – vote for Labour or something crazy like that. Class solidarity is a terrifying thing for a government built on a different kind of solidarity altogether.

Although it would be a really ungrateful thing for said settlers to do that when right and center-right dominated governments have spent twice as much on the average settler in the Occupied Territories as they do on the average Israeli citizen living in, say, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Haifa or Acre.

Building new settlements (in Har Homa, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem) to resolve the housing crisis brings to mind the image of an Ouroboros, aka, the serpent that eats it’s own tail (one worth US$17 billion, to be precise). And, truthfully, it’s just more of the same. It’s not a new tactic, but it’s a tried and true one for garnering support (and building “facts on the ground” for legitimizing the settlements, which are illegal under international law).

As two +972 Magazine bloggers writing in the NYT have noted, the roots of this housing crisis lie in decisions made during the 1990s (back when Israeli governments said they were seriously considering giving the Palestinians their own “state”) to increase government subsidies for settlement housing over public housing projects within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. This encouraged Israelis – ardent Zionists and otherwise – to move to East Jerusalem and other destinations in the Occupied Territories (so that de facto annexation would precede – and justify – eventual de jure annexation).

We really don’t praise Bibi’s genius enough here. He has made more housing available (though only a certain number of demonstrators would probably want to live in them) and made East Jerusalem even more “fundamentally” part of Israel. What more could the Israeli right ask for?

(Well, a few things, but you get the idea.)

Saeb Erekat, Fatah spokesman and a leading negotiator with Israel over the settlements, had this to say (from Haaretz):

“Israel makes clear its intention to turn this occupation into an effective annexation . . . . Israel is armed with the impunity brought on by decades of international leniency and lack of consequences to its illegal actions. It is now the responsibility of the international community to make clear that it will no longer tolerate this impunity and destructive consequences.”

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.

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